Desert Island Beers – Tammy Viitakangas, New Zealand
This weeks Desert Island castaway is Tammy Viitakangas Head Brewer and M.D of Aotearoa Breweries NZ Ltd. Tammy was born and grew up in the small mill town of Kawerau, Eastern Bay of Plenty, on the North Island; her parents having lived their entire married lives there. (Her father came here from his native Finland as a youngster among the early Finnish families who came to Kawerau to help run the then new Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill.)
Tammy left school at 18 and went off to Massey University in Palmerston North to study a Bachelor of Technology. She says she never would have dreamt that 12 years later she would be back in Kawerau running her own brewery with her Mum, Dad and Uncle Esko. The thought of ever even coming back to live in the area was not running on the top of her list of things to do; she wanted to see the big wide world first and did just that.
Tammy says her first memorable beer experiences were at Massey where she learnt about malting and brewing in a biotechnology paper and a part of which involved a field trip visiting a large and small brewery in Napier. She says she subsequently aced that paper. She also indulged in the typical student life and drank a lot of flavourless beer and became more interested in how to make it. The visit to the small brewery which she thinks must have been Roosters, was also a mind opener; as she tried a chocolate beer and had no idea that there was even such a thing as a chocolate beer, and was most impressed being a chocolate lover. She ordered one or maybe many afterwards; loved the tour and seeing a small business in operation. Still though, it did not cross her mind that she would end up doing something similar herself years later.
Thereafter Tammy did the typical NZ OE after Uni; and lived in both Melbourne and the UK for a few years. However it was mostly while traveling in Belgium she first truly fell in love with beer. Her first was the Hoegarden Belgium Wit beer which she loved. Aotearoa now have their own interpretation of that style, with their Mata Blondie and which still brings back memories. Tammy also loved the Abbey and Fruit beers, and experiencing the amazing variations in beer flavours and styles. She drank beer all the way through Germany, Pilsener in Prague and also tried UK offerings.
After returning from the UK, Tammy wanted to start her own business been tired of working for large companies. She looked at businesses to buy, and with having had jobs in food and pharmaceutical manufacturing it was only natural to look for something in that field. Meantime Tammy had started home brewing; she loved it and found others were really enjoying her beer. So she purchased Wellington microbrewery Strongcroft and transported the brewing equipment to Kawerau and managed to convince her Mum, Dad and Uncle to join her crusade. That was seven years ago.
Thinking back now, Tammy says they were all bloody mad. None of them had ever worked in a brewery before, her dad and uncle were paper makers, and mum a school secretary, but somehow they managed to piece together the brewery, and were happy just to have their first batch boil and ferment. Three months after launch they received their first medal which was a very proud moment, and Tammy says they are still having fun today and absolutely loves that beer has no endings, and there is such a huge array of flavours achieved from just four ingredients and remains excited by beer everyday.
Hi Tammy; great to have you on our Desert Island; which 5 beers would you want to have with you if you were stranded here and why?
Croucher Brewing - New Zealand Pilsner – (Rotorua, New Zealand – 5.0%)
“This is a sessionable pilsner with a lovely crisp finish and fruitiness, would be great on a hot desert island day when you need something to cool down with.”
Invercargill Brewery - Boysenbeery – (Invercargill , New Zealand – 6.5%)
“I have a fondness of fruit beers, am a big fan of boysenberries, and this beer looks gorgeous, has unmistakable boysenberry flavour with nice tartness also.”
Epic Brewing Co.- Brewed at Steam Brewing Company – Epic Armageddon IPA – (Auckland, New Zealand – 6.66%)
“I nearly always have a oh god that’s delicious moment when I drink this, it oozes fruity hop aroma, and flavour, and is so damn drinkable its dangerous.”
8 Wired Brewing – Brewed at Renaissance Brewing – 8 Wired iStout – (Blenheim, New Zealand – 10.5%)
“Luscious chocolate, yummy roasted coffee, velvety smooth. This would help satisfy some of my chocolate and coffee cravings I would definitely be suffering from on the island.”
Aotearoa Breweries – Mata Brown-Boy – (Kawerau, New Zealand – 5.0%)
“I couldn’t go to the island without an amber ale. I would happily drink this any day of the year, any weather. Malty and hoppy with medium bitterness and very sessionable. Yum.”
“The beer I couldn’t live out is the Mata Brown-Boy.”
You can also take one meal to go with your beers, what would it be and why? Is it a ‘last supper’ or a perfect pairing for one of the beers?
“I’m not going to choose seafood as there will be plenty on the island, so I would probably take something like a lasagne with chilli sauce. Would match well with the brown-boy.”
You have a CD/MP3/long player but you can only take one album. Choose wisely!
“Thats an impossible decision. May have to be a home made compilation to get a fix of some of my old favourites, Fleetwood Mac, Gipsy Kings, Van Morrison, Queen, James Brown, Cake, Paul Simon, Tracey Chapman, Eric Clapton, REM, B52’s; oh dear hard to stop, yes, have will to be a compilation.”
The Beer Book
You might be waiting a long time on your lonesome on the desert island, so we will automatically allow you a few books to keep your mind busy. You can pick between two beer books and two tomes:
• ‘The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food’ by Garrett Oliver, or;
• Beer by Michael Jackson; plus;
• The Bible, or;
• another appropriate religious or philosophical work
“Would go for Beer by Michael Jackson, haven’t read that one yet so would give me something new to read.
Every time I have attempted to read the Bible I have become sleepy after a page, maybe this would be a good thing to take to help me get to sleep as not fond of the thought of too many creepy crawlies an island may have. Perhaps it may also help assist giving me some faith that if I pray hard enough I may escape the Island.”
The non-beery, non-philosophical book; you can also take a something a little less taxing on the brain, what would that be?
” A book on how to survive on a desert island.”
The Luxury Item
What luxury item would help make your stay on the island bearable?
“Are we allowed to take little people, as it would have to be my 4 and 7 year old boys.” Sorry Tammy the Luxury Item has to be inanimate – and I don’t think your boys qualify. OK then a small sharp axe, or my tenor saxophone, it’s been years since I’ve played and I would have time on the Island.”
Have you tried Tammy’s favourite beers? Let us know and many thanks to her for taking part and being our castaway for the week.
This article was simultaneously posted at Real Ale Reviews on 7th December 2012 as part of our collaboration on ‘Desert Island Beers’.
Tags: 8 Wired Brewing - Brewed at Renaissance Brewing - 8 Wired iStout, Aotearoa Breweries - Mata Brown-Boy, Aotearoa Breweries NZ Ltd., Croucher Brewing - New Zealand Pilsner, Desert Island Beers, Epic Brewing Co.- Brewed at Steam Brewing Company - Epic Armageddon IPA, Invercargill Brewery - Boysenbeery, Tammy Viitakangas